Waiting for Official Permission to Heal? Here it is.

Waiting for Official Permission to Heal? Here it is. September 27, 2014

My family’s favorite movie is What About Bob. We watch and re-watch it on holidays, shouting over one another to quote the lines.

In the movie, Bob (Bill Murray) plays a hilariously disturbed therapy patient who follows his psychiatrist (Richard Dreyfuss) on vacation. To get rid of Bob, Doc writes Bob a prescription to “take a vacation from his problems”.

The prescription works, well–for Bob anyway, who decides to take his “problem vacation” next door to Doc’s lake house.

Now, I’m no doctor; I’m certainly not a psychiatrist, and I’m not implying people dealing with Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome are like Bob! But when I speak about spiritual healing, I take a page from Doc’s playbook.

I say, “Just in case you were waiting for someone to give you permission, this is it. Right here, right now, I’m giving you permission to give yourself permission to heal.”

Then I hand out this form:

Official Permission Slip

 I, Reba Riley, hereby grant________________________[name], the bearer of this notice, complete and unqualified power to redefine any word, term, symbol or concept that anyone, anywhere, at any time, has ever defined for them. Furthermore, I give _____________________ [name] permission to give him/herself permission to heal.

______________________[name] to is to be left unsupervised and encouraged to color outside the lines, and overindulge in freedom of thought.


I,________________________[name], give myself permission to:






____________________________[anything that will help you heal]



I do this exercise this because “giving yourself permission” is actively discouraged in many religious environments. We learn to wait for permission to think, feel, or act, and the waiting becomes so much of a habit that when we actually need to give ourselves permission, we don’t remember how. So we stand around, wounds wide open, wondering when someone will tell us it’s okay to start healing.

The Official Permission Slip is a reminder that you already have permission. You just have to use it.

If you’re still on the fence about whether you’re ready to start letting go of your pain, outrage and anger, read how poet Mark Nepo answered a question about making peace with the past.

[Quoted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s always inspiring Facebook page.]

“Mark began his answer by speaking candidly about his painful relationship with his parents, particularly with his father. There was so much suffering, so much anger. After his father died, he still held on for years to that outrage, that pain. By doing so, he kept those old wounds open. He said,  ‘ Then I realized something. I was keeping my old wounds fresh and open, as evidence for a trial that would never come.’ He further explained: ‘It was as if I was waiting for some big Law & Order episode to happen in my life someday, where I would be able to finally lay out my case against my father to a judge and jury. So I didn’t want to let the old wounds heal, because — if they did — then I wouldn’t have fresh evidence, and nobody would believe how much I had suffered. But then I finally realized — that day of trial, that day in court? It will never come. There is no such thing in life as that courtroom. Which meant that I was keeping my old wounds open for no good reason at all, when all those wounds really wanted was to be allowed to heal.’ With that understanding, the healing began at last.”

Your wounds want to be allowed to heal.

Give them permission.

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